New life up front for City
Manchester City's performance in sweeping aside last season's runners-up like a minor summer irritant bodes well for the months ahead. City, evidently still at half-throttle, were easily good enough to march past the team that ran them so close for the title a few short months ago. Liverpool can quite rightly point to the fact that new recruits are still being bedded in and that certain others are yet to make an appearance beyond a seat in the stands in an improbable hat. But the same can be said for the home side, who have neither fielded what will presumably soon become their first-choice defence, nor have they yet had the pleasure of a fully fit Sergio Aguero to further frighten the life out of people.
Judging by the stocky Argentinian's cameo against Liverpool, where he scored after 20-odd seconds of being on the pitch with his first touch of the game, that is a deep pleasure that only City fans and neutral connoisseurs of the world game will be able to immerse themselves in.
While there has been a certain amount of attention played on the back line and its long wait for central reinforcement, it is in the attack that the season's first good news stories have emerged. In this sector of the pitch, manager Manuel Pellegrini evidently has three men coming into rude good form at the same time. The star of the show against Liverpool, Stevan Jovetic, has waited patiently for his big chance, just as supporters have waited patiently for a proper sighting of what he is capable of, but now both parties have every right to feel pleased with themselves. Jovetic's freedom of movement, darting penetrative runs and sure first touch have made him an eye-catching addition to City's familiar forward patterns. His swiftness of thought and action to rob Alberto Moreno in his moment of zen and to both set up and finish for City's second of the night, revealed a young man in fine fettle.
Alongside him so far has been Edin Dzeko, with the beanpole Bosnian also showing sure signs of a continuation of the great form in which he concluded last season. Dzeko may not have hit the back of the net yet, but his remarkable cushioned back heel assist for David Silva's opener at Newcastle was a real thing of beauty and a sign that the lanky striker, who many see as a water carrier and an occasional slope-shouldered liability in the well-oiled City machine, is actually a very valuable and integral part of it.
It takes only a few seconds perusing the Bosnian's impressive scoring record at Teplice, Wolfsburg -- where he helped the modest club win the Bundesliga with a prodigious goals haul alongside the Brazilian Grafite -- and in Manchester to see why Pellegrini was keen to add him to the growing list of club stalwarts who have signed new contracts in the last few weeks. While Dzeko's goals tend to come in bunches, allowing detractors to whisper asides about him being a confidence player, it is also noticeable that many of his strikes come against big sides in games that matter (not the immediate place of shelter for said confidence players). None will have been better received than his 90th minute equaliser against Queens Park Rangers as City were gently sliding towards oblivion on that sunny summer's afternoon in 2011-12.
Dzeko's firm header, from Silva's corner dragged a misfiring and desperate City back into the game that they needed to win to claim the title. The goal that followed three minutes later, of course, rightly and properly brought the house down. Scored by the third member of City's early season attacking triumvirate, Aguero, it will probably never be surpassed in its timing, effect and drama. I would go as far as to say that some people are still digesting its impact and others have yet to come to terms with what it led to.
For that simple reason, Aguero will likely never be replaced in the hearts and minds of the rank and file of City supporters. While his fitness search continues this August, he is already showing clear signs of the qualities that have put him at the top of the all-time list of City striking greats and indeed at the very summit of the Premier League's goals-per-minutes-table, ahead of the likes of Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer and Ruud Van Nistelrooy and all the other familiar greats that are wheeled out every time we get misty-eyed about the golden era of the Premier League.
City's side -- heavily armed as it is with the aforementioned attacking intent, bristling as it is with its delicate marriage of fulminating power and gossamer delicacy -- is now home to perhaps the greatest forward the club has ever employed.
Drifting back 24 hours to the Liverpool game, still fresh in the mind with its vivid colours, driving Manchester rain and vital smell of sweat well spent, the first Etihad denizens of the season were treated to a split-second masterclass from the stocky Argentinean. What he delivers to a football pitch appeared so far beyond the tiring Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel to seem almost cruel.
As Liverpool's knees began to buckle from a torrid second half chasing, on came the jet-heeled Jesus Navas, then Aguero himself. It was wholly understandable that Liverpool newcomer Alberto Moreno might go over on his ankle while totally alone on the wing. Perhaps he was trying to enact his own escape. In any case, within seconds of Aguero's entry onto the wet pitch, his Liverpool guards might just as well have been fashioned from papier mache, as the little striker eased into his first charge of the game, running onto a great through ball from Navas, to take one slight touch (his first of the game) and then dispatch the ball (his second touch of the game) past Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
Aguero, low to the ground and built on legs that could belong to a Mongolian horse wrestler, is apparently almost impossible to knock off the ball. This power and low centre of gravity, allied to a close control of the ball that is second to none, reminds the casual observer of his countryman and ex-father-in-law (footballers lead complicated social lives) Diego Maradona. Who will ever forget the Mexico World Cup of '86 and those trademark slalom runs over wild scything Belgian and Bulgarian tackles? Maradona carried Argentina to the world title that year, through sheer force of character, willpower and edge of the seat skill and bravery. This heady package would well apply to Aguero too, a modern day reincarnation of his countryman's physique and ability to hold possession amid the most horrendous buffeting from the sport's less skilled.